Heavy-duty hauling calls for heavy-duty equipment. The most common trailer hitch is a Class III, which works fine if you're towing a 5,000-pound (2,267-kilogram) load. But if you're moving something that tips the scales at 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) or more, you have to up the towing ante. Towing such a hefty payload bumps you up from Class III to Class V equipment, capable of handling 10,000 pounds (4,535 kilograms) or more.
Let's review some fundamentals. First, there's the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your towing vehicle. This is the manufacturer's recommended maximum load that your car, truck or trailer can safely hold. Then, there's the Gross Combined Weight Rating, which signifies the maximum safe weight of your trailer and towing vehicle combined.
Generally, larger vehicles have higher GVWRs. For instance, the only vehicles on the market that could withstand Class V towing would be newer model super-duty trucks. But just because you have the keys to the truck doesn't mean you can hitch 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) to the back and tear through town. Most states require a Class A driver's license to tow loads exceeding 5 tons (4.5 metric tons). Depending on how big your haul is, you may need additional permits as well. To get an idea of how big of a load this entails, we're going to cover five commonly towed items that weigh at least 10,000 pounds (4,535 kilograms).
Item 5: Recreational Vehicles
Due to the crumbling credit market that sapped consumer spending, RV sales overall dipped a steep 22.7 percent from August 2007 to August 2008 [source: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association]. But that didn't leave enthusiasts idling at home. On the flip side, RV rentals spiked 18 percent over the same period [source: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association].
Like different types of cars and trucks you can choose from, RV companies offer a variety of models to fit customer needs. They include the self-contained RVs that you drive and those that you tow behind your vehicle. Of the ones you tow, fifth-wheel RVs, also called fivers, are the largest. Fivers are often the recreational vehicle of choice for "full-timers" (that's RV speak for people who live in their RVs all the time). Those models are literally homes on wheels, complete with bed, bath, living and dining rooms.
Of course, the more amenities, such as washers, entertainment systems or additional bedrooms, you add, the more the RV weighs. For that reason, if you're looking into a higher-end RV to serve as your home away from home, check the weight before writing the check. Manufacturers are required to list the weight ratings on every vehicle to ensure that consumers know the type of towing load that may be coming their way.
Item 4: Mobile Homes
As with recreational vehicles, manufactured home production -- including that of mobile homes -- has declined in the United States in the past few years [source: Manufactured Housing Institute]. Nevertheless, mobile homes have been improving in quality during the same time [source: Davis]. The structures are built in factories, usually transported to mobile home dealerships then towed to the owner's desired plot. While mobile homes usually arrive in pieces at their final resting point, they're still huge loads to haul.
Towing a mobile home from the lot to your plot can be a precarious process. You've probably passed a truck hauling a mobile home down the highway at some point. After all, they're hard to miss with warning flags and "oversize load" signs plastered all over them. Since you're dealing with a bulky, multiton item, you'll need to obtain permits from your city or state before taking your mobile home on the road. Regulations will vary depending on your location, so you should check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you’re not in the market for a mobile home and want to build a house from the ground up, you’re still going to have to do some tough towing. Towing a bunch of construction equipment is as much a hassle as towing a mobile home. Next, find out how heavy the equipment can get.
Item 3: Construction Equipment
Construction sites are often overrun with enormous pieces of machinery, such as bulldozers, cranes and tractors. It takes a lot of power to convert virgin landscape into a skyscraper or neighborhood, which is why the necessary equipment is built large and durable. A single Caterpillar brand industrial loader that scoops up chunks of earth weighs more than 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) [source: Caterpillar].
Before work can commence, equipment has to get to the construction site. Also, to get the job done probably requires more than a single industrial-sized tractor. Since it would take a while for a line of bulldozers to creep down the road, tow trucks or semi-trailers attached to tractor trailer cabs can do the heavy-lifting. Depending on the scope of the building project, a tow truck might have to transport several tons of construction vehicles to and from the site.
Item 2: Concrete
Concrete is one of the most essential building materials in the world. Look around you, and you're bound to spot something made of concrete. The seemingly ubiquitous compound is a mixture of water, cement and additives such as sand and gravel. About 75 percent of the concrete used for construction projects is ready-made [source: Portland Cement Association]. Ready-made concrete is initially mixed at a concrete plant, then transported to the site via truck.
Concrete trucks are easy to recognize with their signature drum-shaped attachments. Those rotating drums keep the concrete mixture from hardening during the trip. The truck drivers control the speed of the drum rotation, adjusting it according to how the concrete will be used [source: Clark, Dropkin and Kaplan]. If you've ever picked up a single concrete block, you can imagine the immense weight of a truckload of the stuff. Indeed, a fully loaded concrete truck may weigh up to 60,000 pounds (27,215 kilograms) [source: Clark, Dropkin and Kaplan]. That enormous load makes it one of the largest allowable on many state highways.
Everyone knows that concrete is heavy. And the more concrete you’re towing, the heavier the load. That same principle applies to the next object we’ll look at. Maybe apple cores, coffee grounds and candy wrappers don’t weigh too much individually, but when they’re compacted together, it’s a back-breaking load.
Item 1: Garbage
In one way or another, all of us contribute to the multiton loads of garbage trucks. As the U.S. population has grown in the past decades, so has our solid waste production. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated more than 251 million tons (227 metric tons) of trash in 2006 [source: EPA]. That breaks down to 4.6 pounds (2.08 kilograms) of trash per person every day [source: EPA].
To take care of that mess, we have garbage trucks that carry our refuse from the trash can to the landfill. Those discarded apple cores, coffee grounds and whatnot add up to a hefty cargo load. After making its rounds, a garbage truck may weigh 25 tons (22 metric tons). However, you can do a lot to lighten a garbage truck's load. Since paper products make up more than a third of total trash thrown away, recycling can make a big difference.
And it’s not just paper that you can toss in the recycling bin instead of the trash. Be sure to set aside glass, plastic and aluminum, too. Not sure what to do with food scraps and other organic waste? Consider composting. With the humus that results make from your composted solid waste, your trash can will be lighter and your garden may grow a little better, too.
Torque versus horsepower: Which of these two measurements is more important when you tow? Learn the difference between them and see which is more important.
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More Great Links
- "Cement & Concrete Basics." Portland Cement Association. (Nov. 7, 2008)http://www.cement.org/basics/concretebasics_concretebasics.asp
- Clark, Nancy; Dropkin, Jonathan; and Kaplan, Lee. "Ready Mixed Concrete Truck Drivers: Work-Related Hazards and Recommendations for Controls." The Center for Construction Research and Training. 2001. (Nov. 7, 2008)http://www.cdc.gov/eLCOSH/docs/d0400/d000493/d000493.html
- Davis, Sid. "A Survival Guide for Buying a Home." AMACON Division American Management Association. 2004. (Nov. 10, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=npWBdlBLBY4C
- "Driver's License Classes." Georgia Department of Transportation. Updated Oct. 31, 2008. (Nov. 7, 2008)http://www.dds.ga.gov/drivers/DLdata.aspx?con=1741951492&ty=dl
- "Manufactured Home Production By State (1990 to 2007)." Manufactured Housing Institute. 2008. (Nov. 7, 2008)http://www.manufacturedhousing.org/admin/template/subbrochures/392temp.pdf
- "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006." Environmental Protection Agency. (Nov. 7, 2008)http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw06.pdf
- "RV Shipments and Sales Data." Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Oct. 1, 2008. (Nov. 7, 20080http://www.rvia.org/AM/customsource/INCL_BusinessIndicators.cfm?Section=Business_Indicators
- "Top 10 Vehicles for Towing." Edmunds. (Nov. 6, 2008)http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/list/top10/102426/article.html